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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Techdirt: Are The RIAA's $750-Per-Song Fines Unconstitutional?

the past, many have questioned why the RIAA gets to request $750 to $30,000 per song fines against those they've charged with offering up unauthorized songs on file sharing networks. Last year there was actually a research paper published that questioned whether or not these fines were unconstitutional, since they may be excessive. That paper included some interesting case history to suggest why the fines might be a bit too high. It appears that one lawyer is finally testing a similar theory in court, and has filed a motion in one such case suggesting that $750 fines are unconstitutional. If you look at the details, it looks like the argument is based on different case law than the research paper -- and the motion seems pretty weak overall in describing the details (i.e., it has very few details). The RIAA quickly filed a response that hits back pretty strongly against the original motion, saying that the case cited isn't really relevant at all -- and that the comparisons made in the motion don't really apply. The original motion points to the money the recording industry would make from someone buying the song on iTunes, but the industry points out that buying a song on iTunes isn't the same thing as a license to distribute it -- which makes sense. It seems highly unlikely that the court will buy the unconstitutional argument, especially as presented, but it's an interesting tactic nonetheless. It's not clear why the original motion didn't delver further into the issue, or use some of the info in last year's paper as a resource to back up the claim... but maybe the lawyer decided it wasn't that compelling.
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